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James Merritt - Family Privilege

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    James Merritt - Family Privilege

Just to kind of catch all of us up or those of us who have been who have already forgotten what we talked about, let me just kind of summarize where we are in the plot so far. We've learned, first of all, we cannot be right with God apart from the grace of God. We've learned that. Cannot be right with God apart from the grace of God. So if you're here today and you're planning on getting right with God and being right with God and staying right with God, keep the commandments, obey the law, be religious, dot the I, cross the T, got news for you: You're not going to make it. Can't do it, because you've already broken the law, because God only has one passing grade and that's 100.

And so God says, "Okay, you want to keep the law to be right with me, you've got to keep it perfectly because I'm a perfect God and I won't accept anything less than perfection". Well, that means we're all, you know, we're cooked, you know, we're done, because none of us can or ever have kept the law perfectly. But we also discovered something else. We discovered the deeper problem is: The law not only really doesn't motivate you to obey it; it motivates you to disobey it. And if you don't believe that, let me just say this to you if you're a parent with small children. Just tell your child something he can't do. You just tell your child, "Don't do that". Tell you what, try this experiment. Tell your little child, "Do not eat any cookies in the cookie jar," and then leave the room for an hour and watch what happens. The law doesn't motivate you to obey it; it motivates you to disobey it. So, number one, we can't be right with God apart from the grace of God. Can't do it.

Second thing we learned is this: You cannot get to God except through the son of God. You can't come to God on your own. There's a barrier between you and God we've already talked about. It's called "sin". And you can't break through that barrier. Going to church won't break the barrier. Getting baptized won't break the barrier. Trying to do better and trying to live a better life will not break the barrier. But what we've learned is: Jesus literally took the cross, made the cross a battering ram and He broke through the barrier of sin for you. That's what we've learned in the last few weeks.

Now we come to a third truth. You ready? Here's the third truth: You cannot live for God without the Spirit of God. You cannot live for God without the Spirit of God. Absolutely can't do it. Now, you're going to love it if, you know, I've told you the story several weeks ago about the lady that came to visit our church one time and she had been coming for a while and she came outside and she was kind of fussing at me a little bit, and she did it in a sweet way, but she was fussing at me because she's, "You never talk about the Holy Spirit". Well, you're going to love this message, all right? Because we're going to be, matter of fact, we're going to be talking about the Holy Spirit quite a bit in the next two or three weeks because the Holy Spirit is mentioned 19 times in the eighth chapter of the book of Romans.

As a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit is mentioned more in Romans chapter 8 than it's mentioned anywhere else in the entire Bible. And you say, "Well, why is that"? Because Paul has come all the way to the eighth chapter to tell us a great, great thing that many of us forget, and that is: The biggest difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, when it comes to winning the battle of sin, is we have a secret weapon, and that secret weapon is the Holy Spirit. We can win against sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. However, what we're going to learn today is: The Holy Spirit is a family privilege. You say, "Well, what do you mean by that"? Only people who are in the family of God have the Spirit of God, and only those who have the Spirit of God can win against sin.

So what we're going to learn today in this passage we're going to study is: Why is the Holy Spirit so important? Why is the Holy Spirit so necessary? Why is the Holy Spirit such a big deal? And what does the Holy Spirit do in us, with us, through us, for us, and by us to enable us to live the Christian life that we all want to live if we are followers of Jesus? So Paul says, "Let me tell you three reasons why the Holy Spirit is so vital to our life". All right? Number one, the Holy Spirit empowers me to live as a Christian. The Holy Spirit empowers me to live as a Christian. Now, I'm about to put a verse up on the television and I want you to keep this verse in mind all the way through the end of the message because this is the foundation, this is the bedrock of everything you're going to hear me say for the next few minutes, all right?

Here's the verse, verse 14: "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God". Now, get that down. It's kind of like a mathematical equation. Led by the Spirit of God equals child of God. Led by the Spirit of God equals child of God. So here's the mark of a child of God: You're led by the Spirit of God. That raises a question: So what does it mean to be led by the Spirit of God? What does that mean? Well, Paul has been dropping bread crumbs for us to follow. In some previous verses, he kind of tells us in three different ways: What does it mean to be led by the Spirit of God? So, for example, back in verse 5 he says, "We live in accordance with the Spirit". Then he says in verse 6, "The mind is governed by the Spirit". Then he says in verse 9, "We are in the realm of the Spirit". So Paul says, "Here's what it means to be led by the Spirit".

When you're led by the Spirit, you live according to what the Spirit wants you to do. The way you think is governed by the Holy Spirit, and everywhere you go you always think of yourself as moving in the sphere or the realm of the Holy Spirit. And as I said, that is what makes a Christian so different from a non-Christian. That is what makes the Christian life so different from the non-Christian life, because here's where we are. The unbeliever, if you're here today and you've never become a follower of Christ, that's fine. I'm glad you're here. This is where you need to be. But if you're here today and you've never really surrendered your life to Christ, you live according to the flesh. I'll explain that in just a moment. Your mind is governed by the flesh. You move in the realm of the flesh.

You say, "Well, what do you mean by 'the flesh?'" I mean your sinful nature, the nature we were all born with, the nature that makes us do wrong from the time, basically, that we're born, the nature that teaches us to lie, not to tell the truth, the nature that teaches us not to share and to be selfish. I could go on and on and on. That's where the unbeliever lives. Don't feel bad about that. That's where many of us were at one time because we're all born that way. Now, to make it kind of more, kind of a picture so you'll really understand what I'm saying, let me put it to you this way. I want you to imagine that an unbeliever is standing here, and I want you to imagine a believer is standing here.

Now, you might think you're looking at basically two of the same people, but you really are not, because here's the difference. There's a big difference between the two of them. An unbeliever has one nature inside of him, one. You can call it the old nature, you can call it the sinful nature, or one of Paul's favorite terms is "the flesh". You can call it "the flesh," but he has one nature. A believer has two natures. He has an old nature and he has a new nature. He has the flesh inside of him; he has the Spirit inside of him. He, the Holy Spirit, this believer, the Holy Spirit controls his human spirit. But here's where we have a problem: Sin still wants to tempt and control our body through the flesh or our sinful nature.

So how do you work through that? Well, Paul says, "Okay, when you're led by the Spirit, here's what you will do and here's how you will deal with that old nature that still wants to rise up within you". He says this in verse 12, "Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it's not to the flesh," the old you, the sinful you, the sinful nature, "it's not to the flesh to live according to it, for if you live according to the flesh, you will die," not physically but spiritually. You'll die. "But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live".

Now, what's Paul saying? He's saying, look, once you realize where you are as a believer and once you realize who you are as a believer, all of a sudden the light comes on and you realize you're not obligated to sin anymore. You don't have to give in to sin anymore. You don't have to obey the flesh anymore. You can put to death the sin that wants to rise up in your body. And, by the way, that's exactly what the Holy Spirit will always lead you to do. See, the Holy Spirit will always lead you where the flesh never wants to go. Let me give you an example. Remember, I'm talking about the old you, your sinful nature, all right? I'll just use the word "flesh". That's easier to say. Your flesh does not want to read the Bible. Your flesh does not want to pray.

You know why there's a lot of empty seats here? Their flesh didn't want to get out of bed. Didn't want to do it. Your flesh wants to keep your flashlight off and never have you share Jesus with anybody. Your flesh would rather have you tempt God in your giving and not tithe. And yet those are exactly the places where the Spirit will lead you. Or let's turn it around. The Spirit will lead you away from where the flesh wants you to go. Your flesh wants you to look at pornography. The Spirit does not. Your flesh wants you to be addicted to more stuff and bigger stuff and better stuff. Your spirit does not. Your flesh wants you to be a slave to your anger and your bitterness, but the Spirit will lead you away from all of that.

See, this is the good news. If you're a loving parent, you love to give your children gifts. I love to give my kids gifts. I really love to give my grandchildren gifts, okay? You'll learn that if you live long enough to have grandkids. You just love to give them gifts. God is no different. God loves His kids and God loves to give His kids gifts, and the very first gift that God gives to His children is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The moment you give your life to the Son of God, God gives you the Spirit of God. But why does God gives us the Spirit of God? We already learned back in 14. Those who are led by the Spirit are children of God. Why does God give us the Holy Spirit? For one reason: Leadership. That's why you've got the Spirit. It is for leadership. So in your battle against sin, here's the good news, the Holy Spirit is on the frontlines with you. He's out in front of you. He is leading you. He is the voice of God speaking in you and speaking to you.

I was reading the other day, I don't know much about maritime stuff, but I was reading the other day that when a large ship enters into a very dangerous place or a dangerous harbor, many times it takes onboard what's called a "harbor master". If you are in the Navy, you may know something about this. I didn't. A harbor master is someone that knows the harbor better than anybody else. He knows where the hazards are. He knows the streaks and the directions of the tides and the currents. And so what they'll do is they'll take on a harbor master just before they enter into this particular part of the water. He takes control of the ship. The captain steps aside. He steers the ship because he's the outside expert that's been brought in to make sure that that ship gets to a safe docking.

Well, we have a harbor master called the Holy Spirit, and God gives us that Holy Spirit so He can live in us and He can say to us every day, "Hey, let me lead your mind in the way you think. Let me lead your will in the way you act. Let me lead your feet in the direction where you go, and if you'll let me lead you, I'll help you do what you ought to do and be what you ought to be and think what you ought to think for the glory of God". And if we follow Him, He will always guide us safely through all these stormy seas that we all face of sin and sorrow and suffering. But, and you've learned this, I've learned this, whenever we fail to follow the leadership of the Spirit and we go back and follow the leadership of the flesh, that's when we shipwreck our lives. So as a child of God, Paul simply says, "I ought to live like a child of God".

If I'm a child, I ought to live like one, but the only way you can live like one is if you are led by the Spirit. He enables me to live the Christian life, first thing he says. Here's the second thing. He says, "The Holy Spirit enables me to know I am a Christian". He enables me to know I am a Christian. One of the marks that we're children of God is we're led by the Spirit of God, but that raises a big question: How do we become children of God? How does that happen? Well, skip down to verse 15. He says, "The spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather, the spirit you received brought about your", everybody say that word. Say it real loud. Yeah, "adoption". He brought about your adoption to sonship. So we come to Jesus and what does Jesus do? This is amazing to me. He doesn't just free us. He doesn't just forgive us. He adopts us. He says, "I want to bring you into my family".

Now, that really resonates with a good number of people who are here today because a lot of you have adopted children. Some of you are adopted children. We've got people on our staff who have adopted children. And you know what adoption is, legally. It's the act where you take someone else's biological child and you bring them into your family and you make that child basically your child. You give them the same name, the same position, the same privilege as if that child were a natural child by birth. However, we're not talking legally here. We're talking spiritually. We're talking about spiritual adoption. And, by the way, so many words in the Greek language, it's really cool if you can read Greek. That's why I went to school, to do that. One of the cool things about Greek is words, because many times one word in the Greek is actually a combination of two words in English.

The Greek word for "adoption" comes from two words. One word means "to place" and the other means "son". So it literally means "to place as a son into a family". He is your Father. You can talk to Him as a child would talk to a loving Father. And, see, when we do that, we're not just obeying Jesus. We are also imitating Jesus. But then he goes on to say this. He says in verse 16, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children". Now, if you're a real believer, that's happened to you in the past and it's happened to you, it happens to me constantly, just the knowledge that the Spirit tells my spirit, "You are a child of God". You know, it's kind of a cool thing. When you act like a child of God, which we all should, the Holy Spirit will speak to your spirit and here's what He'll say, "You know why you're doing that"? Why? "Because you're a child of God".

You know what your spirit will say back to the Holy Spirit? "You know why I'm doing that? Because I am a child of God". The Holy Spirit doesn't just empower you to live like a Christian. He enables you to know you are a Christian. There are a lot of reasons why I know I'm a Christian. There's quite a few, but I want to tell you one of the greatest ones. The Spirit testifies to my spirit: I am a child of God. Holy Spirit does that. Last thing, we're done. Now, if we are children, that is, because the Spirit of God made us children, if we're children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

Now, think about what he just said. He said, "Okay, you're a child of God? Yes. Why are you a child of God? Because the Holy Spirit made me a child of God. He testifies to my spirit that I'm a child of God. He leads me to live like a child of God. I am a child of God". And then Paul says, "You're not going to believe this. You just became an heir of God and co-heirs with Christ". You say, "Well, why is that such a big deal"? Well, the author of Hebrews said this about Jesus. He said, "In these last days, God has spoken to us by His son whom He appointed heir of", what's that word? "All. Heir of all things". Are you ready for this? You're a child of God, right? You're a co-heir of God, you're an heir of God and co-heir with Jesus. You're a child of God. When you die, when eternity finally rolls around, when this world is over, what happens? You ready? Everything Jesus gets we get, and He gets everything.

Now, let that sink in. You say, "Man, I get so tired and I don't make a lot of money like other people". Just hang on. "Man, I sure wish I could live over here in Sugarloaf with all those rich people over there". Just hang on. "Man, I wish I could have a big old swimming pool in my backyard like a lot of people". Just hang on. "Boy, I wish I had a second home down in Florida". Just hang on. If you're a child of God, you're going to get everything Jesus gets, and Jesus gets everything. Everything. Now, this is what's so amazing. In the arithmetic of planet Earth, if each heir receives an equal share of an inheritance, what does that mean? That means they each get a certain fraction of the inheritance, right? So if you have five sons and you've got in your will, you know, share and share alike, that was in my dad's will, share and share alike.

What does that mean? One son gets this part, one son gets this part, one son gets this part, one son gets this part, one son gets this part. So they all get a fraction of the whole amount. The amazing thing is: Heaven's arithmetic is totally different. Every adopted child of God receives the full inheritance of the full estate. Nobody is left out. Nothing is left out. Everybody gets everything. Everybody. However, there's a difference. Jesus has always been the heir of all things, always. How did we get in on it? Well, watch this. We get in on it because we're adopted. But here's my question: Why we were adopted? Let me tell you some reasons why you may think you were, but you weren't. We weren't adopted because we're good-looking. We weren't adopted because God needed our wisdom. We were not adopted because God thought we would add something He didn't already have.

There's only one reason why God adopted us and it's one word, and if you don't get this word after all these weeks, I am going to de-church every one of you in this room. What is that word? Grace. That's why God adopted you, grace. Not only was there nothing in you and me to cause God to adopt us, there was everything in us to cause God not to, but He did it anyway, just out of grace. James, I'm going to make you my son. James, you're going to receive everything. James, you're going to get it all. But, Lord, I don't deserve it, and God says, "That's exactly right, you don't, but that's the kind of God I am. I'm a God of love and a God of mercy and a God of grace, and the only way you get my judgment and the only way you get my wrath is if you choose it".

My choice is grace. So knowing full well the trouble we were going to be, and we are, and knowing full well that we didn't deserve it, God went ahead and let us take His name, changed our name to His name, signed His name next to our name, and took us into His family. So here's what I want to do. We're finished. I want to apply what we've learned. Let's get real practical. I want to apply what was learned. I'm going to ask you two questions, as we wrap up, and I want you to take these questions seriously. Here's the two questions I want to ask every one of you in this room. I wish right now, this is one of those times in the message I wish I could have the time to just go one on one to every one of you in this room and say, "Look, give me five minutes, let me ask you two questions".

Here's the two questions I want to ask every one of you in this room, all right? Number one, where are you? Now, hold on. You're just going, "Huh, moron, I'm right here. Focus". No, I don't mean that. I'm not talking about where are you physically. Just hang on. Where are you? And number two, who are you? You know my... no, I'm not talking about your name. I mean, who are you? Where are you and who are you? Say, "Okay, tell me what you mean".

All right, let's go back. What have we learned? We've learned that the book of Romans tells us everybody on this planet is in one of two places, everybody, everybody. You are either in Adam, the original sinner who blew it all and who passed to us our sinful nature, you are either in Adam, or you are in Jesus. Or to put it another way, as we learned today, you either live in the flesh or you live in the spirit. You're either led by the flesh or you're led by the spirit. You either live according to the flesh or you live according to the spirit. Either the way you think is governed by the flesh, or the way you think is governed by the spirit. So I got one question, number one, so where are you? Question number one.

Question number two: Who are you? We just learned something. You're one of two people. You are either a child of God inside God's house looking out, or you're not a child of God and you're outside God's house looking in. Now, let's say you're not a believer. Let's say, "You know what, I'm on the outside looking in. I'm still living according to the quote/unquote flesh. I'm still the old me". All right, let's just say that's you, and I know there are some of you in this room right now. I know that. Here's the great news for you. You ready? Right now God is ready to sign your adoption papers, right now. All you got to do is say yes and God is ready to sign your adoption papers. He is ready to free you from your sin, and not just take you as a freed slave but as a family son and give you all the privileges that I've had since I was nine years old.

Now, you're a believer. What about you? Well, let me give you this thought. You're not your own. You belong to God. And you are not on your own. The Spirit of God leads you. So real grace means, I hope what I'm about to tell you, some of you are going to feel a 50,000-ton burden just fall off your shoulders. Real grace means the Christian life is not you and me trying to live for God in our flesh. The Christian life is God living His life through us in His spirit. That's what the Christian life is all about. That is what it's all about.

So in every decision, this is your homework this week, and then we're going to pray. In every decision you make this week, I'm talking about if you're a believer, every decision between now and next Sunday, I mean, every major decision that really affects you, I want you to ask this question. You might want to write this down. I want you to ask this question: Who is leading me to make this decision and where will this decision take me? Who is leading me to make this decision and where will this decision take me? If you live in the spirit and you're led by the spirit, you will be filled with the love of the spirit and you will obey God not as a slave obeys a master. You'll obey God as a child obeys a father, because that is our family privilege.
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